Report Card staff critics' take on the top movies

November 13, 2008|By staff critics'

Changeling

What it's about : Angelina Jolie (above) plays a single mother whose missing son is returned to her. Only it's not her son, and when she tries telling that to the Los Angeles police, she gets thrown into a psychiatric ward. Based on a true story from 1928.

Rated: R

The scoop : Jolie is simply too modern an actress to play a 1920s mother, no matter how much they dowdy her up or layer on the pancake makeup. And director Clint Eastwood is more interested in stoking his audience's sense of outrage than telling a nuanced story.

Grade ** ( 2 STARS)

High School Musical 3

What it's about : Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens, above) is on a fast track to Stanford; Troy (Zac Efron) has yet to tell his hoops coach and dad that he may not attend the University of Albuquerque. And most of the seniors unite to put on the best darn spring gala ever.

Rated : G

The scoop : It has high-energy singing and dancing, and it's refreshing to see a high-school movie that eschews gross-out gags and elevates romantic courtship rites. But with almost everyone trying to out-nice each other, your mind may wander toward shadier questions.

Grade: ** ( 2 STARS)

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

What it's about : Alex the dancing lion (Ben Stiller) and his fellow expatriates on the island of Madagascar head back to New York on Air Penguin but crash-land in Africa.

Rated: PG

The scoop : This uproarious cartoon suggests what would happen if Comedy Central and the Animal Planet co-produced Roots III. Menageries of characters trace loony curlicues in and around the narrative, and Sacha Baron Cohen commits comic grand larceny as Julien, king of the lemurs.

Grade : *** 1/2 ( 3 1/2 STARS)

Pride and Glory

What it's about : Edward Norton (above) plays Ray Tierney, a New York cop pulled into a task force investigating a shootout that took down four fellow officers.

Rated: R

The scoop : Featuring superb performances by Norton, Colin Farrell, Noah Emmerich and Jon Voight, this tale of a bred-to-the-blue policeman captures the richness and the insularity of police work - and its horrifying potential for corruption - when it's done as a family business.

Grade : *** 1/2 ( 3 1/2 STARS)

Rachel Getting Married

What it's about: A recovering addict (Anne Hathaway, above) on a weekend pass from rehab for the marriage of her sister (Rosemarie DeWitt) operates like an irritant and a truth-detector on family and friends.

Rated: R

The scoop: Hathaway gives a performance unique in its perspective and profound in its volatility; she carries you on an emotional whirligig that can be horrifying and funny, hopeful and devastating.

Grade : **** ( 4 STARS)

Role Models

What it's about: Paul Rudd (above) and Seann William Scott play energy-drink salesmen who become mentors in the Sturdy Wings program for maladjusted kids.

Rated: R

The scoop: Rudd and Scott, Jane Lynch, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Bobb'e J. Thompson give the movie plenty of pungent moments before it dissolves into a sea of goo.

Grade : ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

Soul Men

What it's about : Bernie Mac (above) and Samuel L. Jackson co-star as former members of a legendary soul trio who drive cross-country to perform in an Apollo tribute concert to their lead singer (John Legend), who died of a heart attack onstage in Europe.

Rated: R

The scoop : When this ragged comedy succeeds at showing how these soul men become soul mates once again, it's because of Mac and Jackson, two performers who give their all even when the material is measly.

Grade : ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

Zach and Miri Make a Porno

What it's about : During a dingy Pittsburgh winter, two childhood friends and current roommates, Zach (Seth Rogen, above) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks), can't pay rent and utility bills; then Zach gets the big idea of creating a porn movie and selling it to members of their high school class.

Rated: R

The scoop : This movie is so amateurish and slovenly, there's no suspense to whether Zach and Miri will make their porno; the real excitement would come from lower-rung auteur Kevin Smith finally making a real live movie.

Grade: * ( 1 STAR)

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